Prayer Competition

Lord taught an interesting parable of two people who were involved in a prayer competition. (Luke 18:9-14) One was a Pharisee, who thought he was competing to be heard by the Lord, against the prayer of a tax collector.

Superiority complex: Some people trust themselves as righteous rather than trusting God, and also despise others. Overconfidence could lead to a superiority complex, making them demean and degrade others.

‘I’ Prayer: Pharisee’s prayer was filled with ‘I’ at least five times. His worship was not how great God was, but how great he was. He measured himself with others, rather than by standards set by the Law of the Lord.

Fast two days: Pharisees fasted for two days a week. They believe Moses went up to Sinai to receive the Law on the fifth day (Thursday) of the week, and he came down with the Law on the second day (Monday) of the week. Incidentally, these days were market days in Jerusalem. Those who fast will whiten their faces, and wear disheveled clothes to show off their piety.

Far off: The tax collector did not approach the vicinity but stood far off. He understood God as a righteous, holy, and majestic God. Hence, did not dare to come near. He realized his sinfulness. He was even afraid to raise his eyes toward heaven.

Remorse and repentance: His words matched with his action, he beat his breast, not once, but continuously. It was a clear expression of repentance and sorrow. He pleaded for God’s mercy. The term he used was mercy based on atonement, the word used in the Book of Hebrews. (Hebrews 2:17) The tax collector in his prayer had the right vocabulary and concepts: God, mercy, sin, atonement, and forgiveness.

Two results: The Pharisee thought he was the winner of the competition. He went back without any change. The tax collector was forgiven and declared righteous.

Two religions: Devotees of all religions try to impress, woo, and appease God through their works. Disciples of Lord Jesus humbly approach trusting his grace and mercy.

Do I trust in his mercy?